06:07PM, Wednesday 08 May 2019
Maybe it's because Brooklyn and its generations of immigrants have been explored on screen so much, but Napoli, Brooklyn is easy to imagine as a film.
Set in 1960 and told mostly through short, sharp scenes, Meghan Kennedy's play follows the Muscolini family – mother Luda, cooking 'I am the best', peeling onions and praying; youngest daughter Cesca, desperate for a day at Coney Island; factory worker Tina who thinks she's not at clever as her sisters and Vita – who stood up to her father and is now exiled to a convent.
Nic, the father, is a tinderbox of anger, sparked by any perceived transgression from the women.
Robert Cavanah gives Nic real, physical menace, though we learn through flashbacks of his early tenderness to Luda 'his pearl' and to his youngest daughter before she cut off her curls and provoked his wrath.
Cooking – and especially onions – seem to turn up frequently in Lisa Blair's deftly directed staging. It seems apt, with the multi-layered characters being revealed. Despite having plenty to cry about, only the onions can bring Luda to tears.
There's plenty of light as well as the shade, with the love between Cesca and her friend Connie unveilsf, and the parallel tenderness between Luda and Connie's dad, an Irishman who runs the neighbourhood butchers.
The cast match Robert Cavanah for strength, particularly Mona Goodwin as self-deprecating Tina and Gloria Onitiri as her co-worker and emergent friend Celia. Madeline Worrall as Luda, Hannah Bristow as Francesca are superb.
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